MAKEcation Cooler Hacking Challenge

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MAKEcation Cooler Hacking Challenge

Whew! All of that soldering and kid-wrangling worked up a powerful thirst. So, you drag over the ol’ Coleman and crack open a few cold ones. Sitting there drinking your beers (be they root or hops) with your newly-trained team of solder-droids, you all start contemplating that old faithful camping cooler. Maybe it needs some EL wire highlights around its edges, or an entertaining LED display, or how about some solar-powered, active cooling? Or heck, maybe some wheels and a motor so you can drive that sucker around the patio.

Okay, maybe that last idea is too silly, but you get the idea. It’s summer, you’ve got the family itchin’ to do something with their new-found geek cred, why not take our MAKEcation Cooler Hacking Challenge? Trick out any beverage cooler however you like — the sky’s the limit (hey, sending a cooler into space on a weather balloon — now there’s a challenge…), upload the images to the MAKE Flickr pool, and tag them “MAKEcation.” As with the Soldering Challenge, you’re eligible for a $100 Maker Shed Gift Certificate and some other cool prizes.

For the Soldering Challenge, we brought on Dave Hrynkiw from Solarbotics as our beloved Camp Counselor. He wasn’t called out of his virtual cabin very often, but he was dutifully at the ready… and remains so. The Soldering Challenge will continue until the end of the month, so there’s still plenty of time to submit your MAKEcation photos to Flickr.

campBadgeMatt.gifFor the Cooler Hacking Challenge, we want to introduce you to our latest author-addition to the site, Matt Mets. He’ll be starting off his stint with us as your next Camp Counselor. Matt is an electrical engineer who loves creative repurposing of electronic junk, hacking open source software, and photography. Besides now working for MAKE, he’s also currently an artist-in-residence at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. He’s in the process of designing a ferrous wheel and an emotional typewriter. No, really. Matt will be here to help brainstorm cooler hacks, to answer any technical questions, consult on your hack ideas, and to help us judge the entries at the end of the month. If you have any questions for Matt (or for Dave), send them to:

We’d also love to get your help in brainstorming ideas for cooler hacks. Post your ideas in the comments. We’ll pick our favorite one and you’ll get a Maker’s Notebook and your choice of The Best of MAKE or The Best of Instructables.

4 thoughts on “MAKEcation Cooler Hacking Challenge

  1. Philisophical_Dust says:

    Wow, I can’t believe that no one has commented on this yet! c’mon people!
    (Actually, this is my first post here too, I had to dig out my old Livejournal user name and everything.)

    I think that the most obvious idea would be a temperature display on the outside of the cooler, so you can tell if it needs more ice or anything.

    I think if someone wanted to make a really cool project out of it, it would be a good time to use the skills learned from “The Amazing Seebeck Generator” article from Make vol. 15.

    In the article, a peltier cell is used to turn a heat differential into electricity. These cells also work the opposite way as well, so you can use a peltier cell to keep the cooler cold!

    Wouldn’t it be awesome to put a peltier cell in the coller to keep it cold, and hook it up to a a seebeck generator that you can hang above the fire? Cook your mean on the fire, and it also keeps the drinks cold!

    you could run it off of some sort of crank, but that is just less fun I think.

    (I’m surprised that I can’t comment using my MAKE account directly. If you chose me as the winner, e-mail me at the e-mail address in my account. Account # MK932376)

    1. Matt Mets says:

      Cool, you might want to check out the second post at for more ideas. Good luck with the hacking!

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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